The Stephen King film adaptation has been released this week without being shown to the press in advance FIRESTARTER can be seen in USA cinemas. However, you should definitely avoid going there. The “Fire Child” adaptation is a complete failure. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Firestarter (USA 2022)
For more than a decade, Andy (Zac Efron) and Vicky (Sydney Lemmon) have been on the run: desperate to hide their daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) from a mysterious government agency that uses her unique ability to start fires. want to use it as a weapon of mass destruction. Andy taught his daughter to control her abilities triggered by anger or pain. But for Charlie, now eleven years old, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tame the fire. When her family’s whereabouts are revealed through an incident, a mysterious agent (Michael Greyeyes) takes up the chase in order to bring Charlie into the power of the obscure organization once and for all.
In its search for the next big box office hit based on a Stephen King template, the film industry doesn’t stop at any work. At least not in front of any of the larger ones, which would explain why the production facility Blumhouse Productions, which is primarily known for horror films, the Hollywood studio Universal Pictures, which has always cooperated with it, and director Keith Thomas (“The Vigil”) and author Scott Teems (“Halloween Kill”) With “Feuerkind” we have chosen one of those originals whose first screen adaptation from 1984 is not exactly one of the examples of successful Stephen King film adaptations. On the other hand: “It” also existed once before its triumph in 2017 (“Chapter 1”) and 2019 (“Chapter 2”) – as a television film, which today has at best trashy charm and as a two-part new edition directed by Andy Muschietti is now the most successful horror film of all time. “Firestarter” won’t do that. Neither will it cause a (positive) stir at the box office; In the USA, the film will be released on the streaming service Peacock at the same time as the cinema. Even the press, which by the way didn’t even get to see the supernatural horror drama in this country, didn’t take kindly to the one with Zac Efron (“Bad Neighbors”) at least a reasonably solid film. The reactions of King and/or genre lovers are likely to join in with this stark opposite of a song of praise…
Father (Zac Efron) and daughter (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) flee from the government…
The original was the Hamburg cult director Fatih Akin (“The Golden Glove”) slated to direct the film. It was supposed to be his first international work before it resolved itself after the usual “creative differences” (which in Hollywood speak pretty much everything can mean) withdrew from the project. It didn’t take long before a horror-experienced replacement was found in Keith Thomas. But his debut “The Vigil”, which was released in the middle of two Corona lockdowns, was not really enough to blow your mind: the narrative was too light on highlights, the visuals were too monotonous and the shock effects were too shallow. Cynics would perhaps speak of a “handwriting” at this point, because his “Firestarter”, for which Thomas had at least six times as much budget to stage, is basically a collection of exactly these weak points. Except that in “The Vigil” an intense atmosphere and (admittedly very predictable) jump scares were a little too routine to shock. In “Firestarter” there is absolutely nothing left of the potential that Thomas at least hinted at in his opening work. Nevertheless, it would be a little unfair to blame him alone for the disaster. Screenwriter Scott Teems is also partly responsible for the end result, as in the case of “Firestarter” he seems to have lost any sense of rhythm, dramaturgy, character development and the tension resulting from these ingredients.
“In ‘Firestarter’ there is absolutely nothing left of the potential that the director hinted at in his opening work. Nevertheless, it would be a little unfair to blame him alone for the disaster. Screenwriter Scott Teems is also partly responsible for the end result.
An extraordinary family structure is hastily established: after experiments carried out on them, father Andy and mother Vicky have supernatural powers, which they both passed on to their daughter Charlie. To make matters worse, she can also set things on fire and has no control over this gift in exceptional emotional situations. This would mean that the figure drawing – or what is left of it – is already complete. There are questions like these, whether such abilities are a curse or a blessing, what it does to parents to have such an uncontrollable daughter who sometimes unintentionally turns her deadly powers against them, or just any other impetus for further thinking about the situation “Firestarter” simply isn’t. Instead, a plot focusing on the father and daughter’s escape from the government is rudimentarily reminiscent of films like “Logan”, whose qualities “Firestarter” of course never comes close to. On the one hand, the (and then family) bond between Andy and Charlie is never noticeable and the father’s “I have to protect my daughter from the bad guys” motivation is therefore never credible. On the other hand, because Keith Thomas does everything he can to avoid creating any tension or moments of emotional connection. Not even if he casually lets characters who have been established as relevant to the plot jump over the edge. His only directorial trick to evoke suspense is a dirty yellow color filter – and the non-acting of all the actors – including Efron, who puts on a single blank facial expression – prevents any enthusiasm and feeling for the characters. It almost fits the non-existent dramaturgy, which renounces any classic narrative structure. Not to cleverly turn it on its head, but to advance a plot that would be too well served even with the description “rippling along”.
…she wants to take advantage of the little ones’ powers.
Over the course of the already not exactly lavish 94 minutes (including the end credits), you as a viewer soon lose track of time. After the basic conflict has been established, the escape from the government takes up an important part of the plot. Similar to a road movie, Andy and Charlie make a few acquaintances on their journey – sometimes peaceful, sometimes hostile. Nevertheless, not a single one of them has any added value or even a threat. Only a flashback, which reveals a not unimportant detail from Charlie’s family history, provides a minimal boost of tension before we see Efron and Armstrong running through forests or hiding in houses again. Only when the finale, which was expected from the beginning (similar to “Carrie”), builds up, does “Firestarter” flow with a form of energy that one has searched for in vain in the previous hour and a half: Now it could continue. The film is very obviously aimed at a sequel, which probably won’t happen anyway given this debacle. But then the end credits of “Firestarter” begin to roll. And since the showdown doesn’t necessarily feel like one – we remember: there is no tension or atmosphere here – this end comes so suddenly that one almost wants to speak of a refusal to work. But that actually applies to the entire film…
“It almost fits in with the non-existent dramaturgy, which renounces any classic narrative structure. Not to cleverly turn it on its head, but to advance a plot that would be too well served even with the description ‘rippling along’.”
“Firestarter” also failed in terms of staging. Despite the flame effects, which look a bit more valuable compared to the early eighties, a yellowish, muddy imagery (camera: Karim Hussain) dominates, devoid of any visual stimuli. And so there is not a single reason why you should see “Firestarter” at any time, anywhere – and especially not in the cinema.
Conclusion: Lucky Fatih! The new edition of the Stephen King novel “Fire Child” is a complete failure.
“Firestarter” can currently be seen in USA cinemas.